Aim: To investigate for congenital muscular torticollis (CMT) and positional plagiocephaly (PP) the effectiveness and safety of manual therapy, repositioning and helmet therapy (PP only) using a systematic review of systematic reviews and national guidelines.
Methods: We searched four major relevant databases: PubMed, Embase, Cochrane and MANTIS for research studies published between the period 1999–2019. Inclusion criteria were systematic reviews that analysed results from multiple studies and guidelines that used evidence and expert opinion to recommend treatment and care approaches. Three reviewers independently selected articles by title, abstract and full paper review, and extracted data. Selected studies were described by two authors and assessed for quality. Where possible meta-analysed data for change in outcomes (range of movement and head shape) were extracted and qualitative conclusions were assessed.
Results: We found 10 systematic reviews for PP and 4 for CMT. One national guideline was found for each PP and CMT. For PP, manual therapy was found to be more effective than repositioning including tummy time (moderate to high evidence) but not better than helmet therapy (low evidence). Helmet therapy was better than usual care or repositioning (low evidence); and repositioning better than usual care (moderate to high evidence).
The results for CMT showed that manual therapy in the form of practitioner-led stretching had moderate favourable evidence for increased range of movement. Advice, guidance and parental support was recommended in all the guidance to reassure parents of the favourable trajectory and nature of these conditions over time.
Conclusions: Distinguishing between superiority of treatments was difficult due to the lack of standardised measurement systems, the variety of outcomes and limited high quality studies. More well powered effectiveness and efficacy studies are needed. However overall, advice and guidance on repositioning (including tummy-time) and practitioner-led stretching were low risk, potentially helpful and inexpensive interventions for parents to consider.
Systematic review registration number: PROSPERO 2019 CRD42019139074
Author keywords: Paediatric — Positional plagiocephaly — Congenital muscular torticollis — Systematic review
Author affiliations: JE, JD-R, DC: University College Osteopathy, London, England; DC: Faculty of Health, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland, Fribourg, Switzerland
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